News: Arizona Army National Guard provides air support to BTH Panama
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Walter Van Ochten
COLON, Panama – Aviators of the Arizona Army National Guard stand ready to fly patients to get medical treatment, if and when needed, for the Beyond the Horizon exercise here until the end of June.
2/285th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 98th Aviation Troop Command, an Arizona National Guard unit out of Phoenix, has more 20 soldiers here, with three fully functional UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters to provide air support for Beyond the Horizon 2013 –Panama (BTH 2013-Panama), a joint engineer and medical humanitarian and civic assistance exercise currently taking place here through the end of June.
Capt. Caleb N. Grandy, commander of Alpha Company, 2/285, said of the aviation mission here, “We’re in Panama as part of Task Force Panama. Our main purpose for being here is to support the soldiers and provide casualty evacuation. We’re here in case anyone gets hurt and needs a ride to the hospital. Our secondary role is to support the engineers and medics any way we can.”
With the helicopters and UH-60L’s seating capacity and sling load capabilities, the aviators are able to get people and equipment to and from remote areas quickly and more easily through the air than by land.
Grandy continued, “We can move people and materials and do that expeditiously. Sometimes the road situation here in Panama is not the best and we can move people through the air faster than they can be moved on the ground.”
As for the medical support, there is a difference between a casualty evacuation and a medical evacuation.
Lt. Col. Bill Waddington, commander, 2/285 Assault Helicopter Battalion, explains, “A MEDEVAC Company has the ability to do in-flight medical care, a CASEVAC is simply that … transporting an injured Soldier from point A to point B to get medical care.”
Waddington likes taking part in BTH 2013-Panama. It gives the soldiers in his unit a chance to sharpen their occupational skills and practice for any kind of deployment, while working alongside partner nation personnel.
“We’re able to refine our ability to alert, assemble and deploy. (It) really keeps our soldiers trained and proficient. Missions like this, specifically for the National Guard, should become more of a main-stream mission. Part of the Guard’s mission is to provide emergency response for your state,” said Waddington. “Getting involved with the humanitarian missions gives our soldiers the opportunity to see a different area, learn a different culture and learn the challenges of deploying.”
Beyond the Horizon 2013-Panama is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise deploying service members to perform hands-on humanitarian and civic assistance in cooperation with host nation officials, security forces and citizens. U.S. Army South provides operational support for this mission.